Mediterranean Diet Recipes: Bulgur Wheat Side Dishes

Side dishes prepared with bulgur wheat are very common along the Mediterranean coast; many of the region’s most celebrated, classic recipes use this grain. Bulgur combines several different wheat species with the bran partially removed.

Using this wheat is a great way to add more whole grains in your diet, and compared to white rice, bulgur offers more fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins. Plus, it’s a low-glycemic grain (creating a low blood sugar spike) and boasts a great nutty flavor. You can find bulgur wheat in any major grocery store.

Bulgur Salad with White Beans and Spinach

Prep time: 20 minutes, plus 30 minutes chilling time

Cook time: 5 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

3/4 cup bulgur

2 cups water

1 pound baby spinach, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (packed in oil), finely chopped

One 14.5-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, boil the water. Pour in the bulgur, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow the bulgur to sit for 20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, toss together the spinach, parsley, mint, sun-dried tomatoes, and beans. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt, and pepper.

  3. Add the spinach mixture to the bulgur and toss with a fork. Whisk the dressing and pour over the top of the bulgur/spinach mixture, stirring to mix. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to serving.

Per serving: Calories 174 (From Fat 71); Fat 8g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 394mg; Carbohydrate 22g (Dietary Fiber 6g); Protein 7g.

Tabbouleh

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus chilling time

Cook time: 5 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

1 cup water

1/2 cup bulgur

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 to 2 lemons

1/2 cup chopped green onions

4 cups chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1 large tomato, diced small

1 English cucumber, diced small

1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Boil the water in a medium saucepan. Add the bulgur, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow the bulgur to absorb liquid for at least 15 minutes

  2. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice in a serving bowl. Toss the vegetables and herbs into the bowl and stir. Season the mixture with salt.

  3. Add the bulgur, stir, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Per serving: Calories 150 (From Fat 87); Fat 10g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 224mg; Carbohydrate 15g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 3g.

Stuffed Kibbeh

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

1/2 pound plus 1/2 pound lean ground beef or lamb

1 medium onion, finely chopped, divided

1/4 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1-1/2 cups bulgur

1 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Nonstick cooking spray

6 lemon wedges

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a heavy skillet, cook half the meat and half the onion over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes.

  2. Add half the salt, the pine nuts, cumin, coriander, and allspice and cook for 3 minutes.

    Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped cilantro, and set aside. Soak the bulgur in cold water for 10 minutes and squeeze out the moisture.

  3. Blend the bulgur; the remaining meat, onion, and salt; the pepper; and the cayenne in a food processor for 1 minute or until it forms a paste.

  4. Shape about 3 tablespoons of the bulgur mixture into a 1/2-inch-thick pancake with your hands.

    Place 1 tablespoon of the meat filling in the center and close up all four sides. Repeat with the remaining bulgur mixture and filling, evenly dividing the filling among the pancakes.

  5. With wet fingers, shape the kibbeh into ovals and place onto a baking sheet.

    Spray the kibbeh with the cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes. Serve on a platter with the lemon wedges.

Per serving: Calories 338 (From Fat 141); Fat 16g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol 51mg; Sodium 255mg; Carbohydrate 32g (Dietary Fiber 7g); Protein 20g.

Serve kibbeh as a side dish with your meal or eat one as a snack — try it with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce. Because the kibbeh have protein, you can combine them with a light bean dish or salad for a great meal.

Bulgur-Stuffed Zucchini

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 28 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

1 cup water

1/2 cup bulgur

3 medium zucchinis

1/8 plus 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

One 28-ounce can chopped no-salt-added tomatoes

1 cup plus 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

3 Roma or plum tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 lemon, thinly sliced

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the bulgur, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow the bulgur to sit for 15 minutes.

  2. Slice the zucchinis in half lengthwise.

    Using a spoon, scoop out each zucchini’s pulp, leaving about 1/4-inch of the flesh to retain the zucchini’s shape; chop the pulp and set aside. Season the zucchini with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper.

  3. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

    Add the onion, coriander, and cumin and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and allow the mixture to cook for 5 minutes.

  4. Add the chopped zucchini pulp, 1 cup of the parsley, and the remaining salt to the bulgur and mix well.

    Place the zucchini halves faceup in an 8-x-8-inch glass baking dish. Fill the zucchini halves with the bulgur mixture.

  5. Pour the tomato sauce over the zucchini.

    Top with the sliced tomatoes and then the lemon slices. Bake for 20 minutes. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve.

Per serving: Calories 96 (From Fat 26); Fat 3g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 137mg; Carbohydrate 16g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 3g.

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